Banks lead FTSE up 0.4%; Lloyds sees 2010 profit

* Banks surge; Lloyds sees return to profit

* Miners rebound; metals prices harden

* ‘Quadruple witching’ creates volatility

By David Brett

LONDON, March 19 (BestGrowthStock) – Britain’s FTSE 100 share index
was up 0.4 percent in early trade on Friday, following gains
made overnight in the U.S. and Asia and led by banks after
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L: ) said it would return to
profitability in 2010.

By 0900 GMT the FTSE 100 (.FTSE: ) index was up 19.70 points
at 5,662.32, having closed almost unchanged in the previous
session after hitting a 21-month closing peak on Wednesday.

The ‘quadruple witching’ expiries of futures and options
contracts are expected to cause some volatility mid-morning.

Banks were the biggest risers having slipped on Thursday,
with Barclays (BARC.L: ), Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L: ) and
Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L: ) up 1.5 to 7.6 percent.

Bailed out British lender Lloyds said it would return to
profitability in 2010 after two years of heavy losses, helped by
lower than expected bad debts and tight cost controls.
[ID:nLDE62I07H]

“The corporate news front has been incredibly quiet this
week. The unexpected update from Lloyds has been a welcome
relief and kick-started interest in the banking sector,” said
Richard Hunter, head of UK equities at Hargreaves Lansdown.

OILS, MINERS RISE

Energy shares were high up on investors’ wanted lists. BP
(BP.L: ) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L: ) rose 0.3 and 0.6 percent
respectively.

Australia’s Arrow Energy (AOE.AX: ) asked for trading in its
shares to be suspended, stoking speculation that Royal Dutch
Shell and PetroChina (0857.HK: ) would sweeten their joint $3
billion offer for the coal-seam gas producer.

Oil explorer Tullow Oil (TLW.L: ) was up 0.4 percent, helped
by a target price hike from RBS.

Miners rebounded from Thursday’s falls, underpinned by
firmer metal prices. Fresnillo (FRES.L: ), Kazakhmys (KAZ.L: ),
Xstrata (XTA.L: ) and BHP Billiton (BLT.L: ) rose 0.6 to 1.4
percent.

Drugmakers extended the previous session’s gains.
AstraZeneca (AZN.L: ) climbed 0.9 percent, while GlaxoSmithKline
(GSK.L: ) was 0.4 percent higher.

Life Insurers were also firmer with Aviva (AV.L: ) gaining 0.6
percent after Aviva Investors, its asset management arm, said it
plans to expand in Asia-Pacific by hiring bond and equity fund
managers in Singapore and setting up a sales offices in Japan.

Resolution (RSL.L: ) rose 0.7 percent. Deutsche Bank kept its
“hold” rating and cut its target price on the firm but said
results next week cast a spotlight on an “unreasonably cheap
valuation”.

Peers Legal & General (LGEN.L: ) and Prudential (PRU.L: ) added
1.0 and 1.5 percent, respectively.

Among individual movers, British Airways (BAY.L: ) put on 1
percent on hopes that Unite union’s last-ditch talks with BA’s
management will lead to a strike by cabin crew this weekend
being averted. [ID:nLAL004368]

Among the second lineers Booker Group (BOK.L: ), Britain’s
largest cash-and-carry wholesaler, was the top riser, up 5.9
percent after Evolution Securities raised its rating to “buy”
from “add”.

Some defensives were on the back foot as investor appetite
for risk returned. Utilities Centrica (CNA.L: ) and Severn Trent
(SVT.L: ) both fell 0.3 percent, while British American Tobacco
(BATS.L: ) was down 0.5 percent.

No significant economic data is scheduled for release on
Friday, either in the UK or the United States.

Stock Market Basics

(Editing by Greg Mahlich)

Banks lead FTSE up 0.4%; Lloyds sees 2010 profit